As bloggers and as aspiring authors, this concept gets drilled into our heads. We are told that writing great posts, articles and manuscripts gets readers to our blogs and attracts agents and publishers. Yet, some bloggers can get blog-to-book deals without writing a single paragraph of real content (depending, of course, upon what you deem real content).
Take for instance the blog-to-book deal that’s been the talk of the blogosphere most recently: Text from Dog. You won’t find one full blog post on Joe Butcher’s blog, also called Text to Dog. Under his nom de plume, October Jones, he created a Tumblr account filled with zany images featuring fictional text messages from his pet bulldog, Cooper. Text from Dog became an instant hit in the blogopshere, quickly gaining 100,000 Tumblr fans and 40,000 followers on Twitter. Months later, Headline Publishing won the rights to Text from Dog‘s first original book, which will be in stores this October.
Obviously, Text from Dog isn’t trying to win a literary prize nor will it do so. It will become a gift book, a coffee table book or a party favor. Joe Butcher’s loyal fans will like the souvenir of a printed book, and people will buy it as a Christmas gift for the dog lovers they know.
This blog-to-book deal falls into the ranks of Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages from Home (www.postcardsfromyomomma.com), I Can Has Cheezburger (www.icanhas.cheezburger.com) and Sh*t My Kids Ruined: An A-Z Celebration of Kid-Destruction (www.shitmykidsruined.com). A little bit of copy, some funny photos and lots of contributors. They also share four common elements that got them noticed by agents and publishers:
- big market
- lots of readers
However, I’d stress one element in particular: uniqueness. Each one of these blogs began as a totally different concept never before seen. And it took off. Readers found it, loved it and shared it. The amount of actual written content didn’t matter. The visual content, the angle, the humor, the context–these things mattered. And that’s something to keep in mind, especially in a blogging and publishing world when you can produce video blogs, podcasts and include audio and video in your ebooks produced from your blogged books. Publishers and readers are looking for unique books (and blogs). That’s why you must look at your competition in both the bookstore and the blogosphere prior to beginning your blogged book and find a unique angle for your blogged book. If you are having trouble doing this on your own, hire a blog-to-book coach (or a book coach) to help you get perspective.
I gave a talk at a library recently and a woman who attended asked me the following question: “Is it bad that I just want my blogged book to have lots of photos and just a tiny bit of copy?”
“Hell, no!” I said. (Well, that’s not exactly what I replied, but I told her it was a good idea to move forward as she planned.) Not if you want to blog that kind of book.
Personally, I want to blog and read a book with great content. But that’s just me. Text from Dog will be funny and cute and unique. I laugh when I go to the blog to check it out for research. I wouldn’t go there every day to read the posts. It’s not worth my time. A lot of other people disagree–obviously.
I recommend blogging books with a focus no producing great content. Think about books you love, and model your blogged book on those. Why did they attract you and other readers? If they are bestsellers, why? I bet the great content had something to do with it.
Maybe that’s why we hear the same advice over and over again: Content is king. Maybe it really should be changed to: Content sells books.